“Long live our collective action. Our struggle for a better health system in the country continues.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Victory is sweet for the employees of the Philippines Orthopedic Center (POC), as well as its patients, as the Modernization of Philippine Orthopedic Center (MPOC) project under Public-Private Partnership program was terminated on Nov. 17.
The Department of Health (DOH) said in its statement that the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Agreement with Megawide World Citi Consortium Inc. (Megawide) was terminated by the Megawide itself, because the DOH failed to get the consent of the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) management to use its land where the new POC was supposed to be constructed.
The BOT agreement was formally signed in March 2014 after President Aquino approved the modernization project in November 2013.
The DOH said that after the signing of the BOT, former Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and later, the present Health Secretary, Janette Loreto-Garin, failed to obtain certificate of possession.
The DOH also stated other issues that hindered implementation of the project such as:
• the displacement of current POC employees;
• the implementation of the PhilHealth new case rates policy in mid-2014; and
• the difficulty/delay in appointing the “independent consultant.”
All of these, the DOH said, were unanticipated and affected the implementation of the project.
“Furthermore, the proposed rehabilitation hospital that will house the displaced employees of the Philippine Orthopedic Center is still being deliberated in Congress. All of these contributed to the decision of Megawide to terminate the BOT agreement on the MPOC,” the statement read.
In a text message, POC employees union president, Sean Velchez thanked everyone who supported their campaign against the so-called “modernization” of the POC.
“Long live our collective action. However, our struggle for a better health system in the country continues,” he said.
The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) who is also a convenor of the Network Opposed to Privatization of Health Care (NOP) also said in its status in the social media, “This is a big victory for patients and people’s health advocates. For four years, an arduous and comprehensive campaign was launched that involved many mass walk out, protest actions, debates, and other forms of resistance to privatization. This victory is the fruit of these struggles.”
They also said that it is not the end of their campaign, because many public hospitals are still threatened with other forms of privatization.
“Our people’s right to health is still continually in peril because of policies that commodify health. The struggle continues!”
The POC is the only tertiary hospital in the Philippines that caters mainly to patients with orthopedic, musculoskeletal problems and neuromuscular conditions. It is also the major referral center for spinal injuries in the country.
Most of POC patients are indigent patients. According to the POC employees union data, the actual bed capacity of the hospital is 657, of these beds, 562 or 85 percent are allocated for service patients and 95 beds or 15 percent are allocated for pay patients.
In the BOT agreement, once the project pushes through, the new POC will only allot 70 beds for service patients.
The modernization project was strongly opposed by the POC employees, patients, health groups and health advocacy groups, the religious and other cause-oriented groups.